Thursday, November 03, 2005


Rethinking James Connolly...

I've been reading a book called 'Political Violence in Ireland' by Charles Townshend which is a fascinating read, particularly in relation to information given on James Connolly, one of the Easter rebels shot by the British. I had always looked on Connolly as being a far more pragmatic figure than Padraig Pearse but I may have to rethink my views.

I was aware that Connolly rebuked Pearse for his comment about the 'red wine of the battlefield' by saying, "we do not think that the old heart of the earth needs to be warmed with the red wine of millions of lives. We think anyone who does is a blithering idiot. We are sick of such teaching, and the world is sick of such teaching". However, as Townshend acknowledges, Connolly did not escape from such rhetoric himself:

"...though Connolly viewed the international conflict in completely different terms, he failed to escape from the rhetoric of blood. Indeed, in his doomed attempt to fuse international socialism with Catholic nationalism, he was even drawn at last into giving it a specifically religious inflection. In February 1916 he announced that...

deep in the heart of Ireland has sunk the sense of degradation wrought upon its people - so deep and so humiliating that no agency less powerful than the red tide of war on Irish soil will ever be able to enable the Irish race to recover its self-respect, or establish its national dignity in the face of a world horrified and scandalised by what must seem to them our national apostasy...Without the slightest trace of irreverence but in all due humility and awe, we recognize that of us, as of mankind before Calvary, it may be truly said 'without the shedding of Blood there is no Redemption'.

By then Connolly, as Sean O'Casey, the secretary of the Irish Citizen Army, ruefully observed, had 'stepped from the narrow byway of Irish Socialism on to the broad and crowded highway of Irish Nationalism':

The high creed of Irish Nationalism became his daily rosary, while the higher creed of international humanity that had so long bubbled from his eloquent lips was silent for ever, and Irish labour lost a leader.

I find this all very interesting, particularly because I know alot of Republicans have a special place in their hearts for Connolly due to his socialist leanings, however Connolly's socialism appears to have waned in what proved to be his final years. As well as that, as I said above, I was under the impression that Connolly was one of the few key figures involved in the Rising who actually believed the Rising had a chance for success but this doesn't seem to be true either. Townshends speaks of...

"his grim remark to William O'Brien on Easter Monday morning, 'We are going out to be slaughtered'. And in reply to O'Brien's question, 'Is there no chance of success', he replied unambiguously, 'None whatever'.

It's all very interesting stuff. It doesn't change my personal opinions of Connolly as I don't class myself as a socialist and so that aspect of his beliefs do not appeal to me particularly, but it just goes to show you that Irish history can always prove intriguing!


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

© 2008 United Irelander.